By Christina Draper
Suffering, whether it’s mentally, physically, or emotionally, is an expected aspect of a believer’s life. We are tested. We are tried. And we are refined to pure gold in His hands. Through all of it, His grace is evident.
About two years ago I felt trapped in an overwhelming state of suffering. As years of anxiety took their toll on my mental, physical, and emotional health, I was left struggling to keep my head above the water. While peace felt like a distant memory, hope began to dig roots deeper into my soul.
It was in this darkness that I saw Him clearer and more profoundly than ever before.
Recently, I read the story of Elijah as he ran from Jezebel. In the wilderness, alone and defeated, Elijah pled with God to take his life saying, “I am no better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:4).
God, understanding his immediate needs, allowed Elijah to sleep and provided him with two meals. An angel informed him to “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for [him]” (1 Kings 19:7).
As I read this I couldn’t help but see God’s constant, simple, yet overwhelming grace. He saw Elijah’s limitations and provided him with exactly what he needed to keep pressing forward. With the promise of a difficult journey, Elijah “went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb” (1 Kings 19:8).
Although it seemed basic, rest and food met his needs perfectly and restored his strength for the journey ahead. Simple and small, yet it was a beautiful display of God’s grace to a struggling believer.
I see myself in Elijah. I was lost, alone, and defeated, but God reached out His hand to me in the wilderness. He did not use grand gestures or even remove my pain, but He spoke to me in a still, small voice.
Every day as I read, He illuminated verses that penetrated my darkness, and gave me peace, one brief moment at a time. I found courage to go on through Philippians 3:8,14:
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ...I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Peter’s experience on the water strengthened my faith: “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (Mat 14:30-31).
Paul’s words reminded me that whatever my needs, God is able to meet them: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (Phil 4:11). And in the Psalms, I received the reassurance that the Lord’s arms are always around me: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah” (Ps 68:19).
These verses were like food to my starving soul; through them, God gave me the strength to press on and continuously look to Him. I felt His grace in every breath that didn’t come as a struggle.
I felt it when my friends and family surrounded me and lifted me up in my pain. I felt it when I was able to sleep through the night. I felt it even stronger than I could feel the pain.
Learning to defeat the overwhelming lies with the truths rooted in His word has been hard, but so rewarding. Although the intensity of the pain has decreased and the struggles of that time are now over, I still feel the effects.
While God’s wonderful graces were evident to me in the darkness, they continue all the more as I have come into the light. He continues to use my suffering as a blessing to my soul even though much time has passed. The most wonderful truth of God’s grace in suffering is that it continues steadfastly even after the suffering ends.
If you are in a place of suffering, whether it has been weeks, months, or even years, let me offer these words of peace: you are not alone and you are not forgotten. Although you may feel powerless and sorrowful remember always that His grace “is sufficient for you, for [His] power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).